Commish Kelly Gets Own Chauffeurgate?
(Photo: Veronica Kelly, far left, with hubby and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly.)
After all the hoopla over Alan Hevesi's use of state employees to chauffeur his disabled wife around, you'd think allegations that NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly was affording his own wife the same perk might set off a few alarm bells.
According to NYPDconfidential.com , a blog penned by former Newsday columnist Leonard Levitt, police detectives assigned to Kelly's security detail were "frequently" assigned to ferry Kelly's wife, Veronica, around town in unmarked police cars up until a few months ago.
In his column "Driving Mrs. Kelly," Levitt quotes unnamed detectives with "first hand knowledge of the practice" who say that since 2002, members of Kelly's security detail were required to take Mrs. Kelly on "hundreds of personal trips," including: "picking Mrs. Kelly up on the Upper East Side when her car broke down; driving her to fundraising events or to the shelter where she volunteered; and taking her to and from airports for domestic and foreign flights."
According to Levitt, Mrs. Kelly not only got free rides on the public dime, but was rather imperious about it. He quotes one cop who says she even directed members of the detail to turn on the flashing lights and siren when she was late for an appointment—a practice Kelly has banned for himself unless it involves a police emergency:
"I know my husband doesn't like to do this but I need to get there right away," the detective quoted her as saying when she was running late to a fundraiser.
"The commissioner's wife tells you to put the lights on, you put the lights on," the detective said.
According to Levitt, Mrs. Kelly's chauffeured trips came to an abrupt halt last fall when the Hevesi scandal broke in the news.
Granted, Levitt's a dogged critic of the NYPD—so much so that Kelly once drove out to the Newsday's offices in Long Island to complain about Levitt's coverage when he was still writing his "One Police Plaza" column for the paper. Last January, Kelly even tried to have Levitt banned from police headquarters downtown.
Still, considering the steep price Hevesi paid for his wife's door-to-door service, you'd think these potentially explosive new charges might warrant a blip in the news—especially with all the talk of Kelly running for mayor.
So we phoned NYPD spokesperson Paul J. Browne, who did his best to quash it.
"It's simply not true," Browne told the Voice.
"Occasionally the police commissioner, when he is invited to appear at events as the police commissioner, has asked that his spouse be picked up to join him," Browne said. "But the description of some sort of regular assignment or frequent trips is untrue," Browne added.
Browne also scoffed at claims that Mrs. Kelly had ever requested flashing lights or that she'd ever been driven to the airport on personal trips, saying, "I'm not in the business of disproving falsehoods. This is someone who publishes untruths every week."
To which Levitt fired back: "I stand by my sources. My story stands for itself.
"I call Browne every week and I leave a message with someone, and every week he has an opportunity to respond," Levitt continued. "On this story, I got no response from him and I was unable to reach Mrs. Kelly."
Then Levitt threw down this challenge: "If you want to find out the truth of this, all you have to do is subpoena all the detectives in [Kelly's] detail since 2002 and see what they say. If they deny under oath what they said to me, then I will apologize to Commissioner Kelly and Mrs. Kelly and I'll stop writing this column."
So will the NYPD, which this year has refused to reissue Levitt a press card, take up his challenge? Don't bet on it.
Bonus reading: You can find plenty of reaction, both skeptical and outraged, from this bulletin board frequented by many on the force, where posters refer to Kelly by his in-house nickname, "Popeye."